Learning how to teach…

“It’s like the kids don’t know how to write at home. I’m getting emails asking what a small moment is,” a first grade teacher shared during a Google Hangout this week.

We talked about how we needed to regroup and share a vision for writing workshop with families and help kids envision their school routines at home. Do parents really know what their kids are capable of when it comes to writing?

“We can think about our work with shared writing,” I thought aloud, the wheels in my brain already churning trying to think through how to make this happen using the various forms of new technology that have been bombarding us all.

“I have some ideas,” I told the group. “How about I try to create something to share by the weekend and then you can give me feedback. We can go from there.”

That’s where we left things and my mind never stopped whirling as I worked to think this through.

I awoke early the next morning (if I want any quiet thinking/working time these days 4 am seems to be the sweet spot), still thinking. I decided I needed a document camera so I could model my own writing. So, I went onto Amazon and ordered the model that would arrive the soonest. It seems that document cameras may also be in high demand… kind of like toilet paper, meat, and basically everything else these days.

Later, like 8am later, when I texted my team to tell them about my purchase, I got an idea that I might be able to use our iPad as a digital whiteboard. I could model writing that way. A quick Google search told me that this was possible, so I logged back into Amazon to cancel my document camera order.

The rest of the day was a blur of meetings, a growing to-do list, sprinkled in with some interacting with my own children. I never had a chance to think more about creating a video writing lesson before I crashed in bed with Wren, also part of the daily routine.

When 4am rolled around the next day, I was up and determined to make the plans in my head a reality. I decided to use Google Slides to create a shell of my lesson, embed a video created with my document camera hack, and then record the entire micro lesson using Screen Castify. Would this crazy plan work?

I wouldn’t find out until nearly 14 hours later, after another busy day of juggling working from home and entertaining three kids who had a surprise “day off” from school so their teachers could regroup on this distance learning thing.

Realizing it would never be quiet, I persuaded Wren to take Rose down to the playroom in the basement to keep her busy for a few minutes. I also tricked Adi into thinking I needed her help, sitting super still and quiet next to me as I recorded my lesson…to make sure I was doing a good job.

I only had time for one take, my first time ever using Screen Castify. I knew Rose would only last so long in the basement before she would have to show me or tell me something.

I pressed the stop record button just as I heard footsteps coming up the basement stairs. I looked over at Adi, “I don’t think it was that good,” she said, taking her job very seriously.

We all sat and watched my first ever virtual writing lesson. It wasn’t perfect, but I still felt pretty proud that all of my crazy brain activity finally found a way out. I felt hopeful that we just might be able to keep teaching kids to write in these crazy times. Hopefully we can iron out some of the kinks in the process…

18 thoughts on “Learning how to teach…

  1. There were so many relatable parts to your story, I was right there with you. The icing on the cake was, “I pressed the stop record button just as I heard footsteps coming up the basement stairs. I looked over at Adi, “I don’t think it was that good,” she said, taking her job very seriously.” I’m still tickled. Kids. They are so unimpressed by us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I SO want to see it!!! (Seriously)

    I haven’t gotten well-versed in Screen Castify– that’s on the weekend learn-list. Zoom has a white board you can record. That’s an option as well.

    And on your writing note, you capture the chaos as well as the love. The image of Adi taking her job seriously is a great one, even though her feedback needs some work.

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  3. Wow, quite an accomplishment! The deployment of your girls to make it all happen is impressive. I also bet that parents may not have much of an idea of how much their children know about writing and process. It’s so different from how we were taught. So I do think the distance learning becomes truly eye-opening for many parents once their children feel appropriately coached and confident in showing what they actually know how to do.


  4. 4 am. My mind is working then, too, but the difference is, I don’t get out of bed. I’m struggling with the same things, how to do something that’s so natural in a classroom with an easel and a group of kids. Here are the things that make it different and possibly better, though. Kids can start and stop your video without anyone getting annoyed. You never get interrupted. If they “get it” right away, they can “leave the rug” and just get to work. Parents actually get to see what takes many minutes to explain (usually in abstract education-ese) at Back to School Night. So, if the video actually gets played (an if in my Google Classroom right now), it could have real power. I’m using screen castify a lot right now. One challenge is Google taking a long time to process–your “14 hours later” line has a double meaning.


  5. I love that you’re finding a way to do all this. Then you can teach me! Just think, if I still had that overhead projector, I could be videoing the wall in my house and talking through my writing! Adi is so my Maura.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so thought of you and your overhead… wondering if you had it tucked away in your garage. You hugged that thing with love as you carried it around. It would come in handy right now… but I did figure out another way!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This sounds fantastic! If I get an iPad, can you teach me how to do this? Maybe this is our answer! Can we have a Google Meet and you can teach all of us? And I also giggled when I saw Tracey’s comment about her overhead! See, it will come in handy someday!
    I love the way you figure things out, even with your very busy household!


    1. I don’t think you need an iPad. Melanie said you can use a white board on zoom. We may be able to record there. I’d be happy to share and continue learning together!


  7. Yes, we are all having such on the job technology learning, eh? You never know what you need to know how to do until there is no other way. I am busily embedding voice-overs of directions using Screencastify or Loom and this weekend have a few full-on videos t make too. I sensed your relief when you finished that first video – and by now you are probably thinking how much more you could do today!


  8. YOU ARE BRILLIANT. I cannot believe that you managed to do all of that while handling your own kids in the middle of a crisis. I wish that every parent, every administrator, everyone who does not understand what teachers (and coaches) are doing could read this blog post. 4am thinking, Amazon ordering, work arounds, dealing with children, and you did it! And all to forward the learning of our students. Honestly, I could just hug you. Except, of course, that I can’t. Thank you for your commitment & creativity!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So much I can identify with here! All of us using our brains differently, repurposing digital equipment, trying to find a way to continue teaching kids to become stronger writers, readers, scientists… It’s kind of amazing what we are capable of, and your post captures this potential so well. Of course, all this amongst the craziness of our little ones in the house!


  10. I am simply dumbfounded. You get my vote for superhero (superheroine)… I am still working on the basics, but I will get there with inspiration from you. Thanks! 🙂 Wendy


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